News / Asia

    Thailand Sets July 3rd Election

    Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva greets as he walks on the hallway of the Government House in Bangkok, May 9, 2011
    Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva greets as he walks on the hallway of the Government House in Bangkok, May 9, 2011
    Daniel Schearf

    Thailand has announced plans to hold a national election in July that many hope will bring stability to the country’s turbulent politics. The vote is expected to be a close race between Thailand’s traditional elite, represented by the ruling Democrat party of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, and an opposition supported by former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. 

    This week Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva announced the dissolution of the House of Representatives, clearing the way for a July 3 nationwide election.

    In a recorded message broadcast on national television, Abhisit said a return to polls could restore stability to the country’s politics.  

    He says the election is a new beginning for Thailand to move forward to effectively solve problems for people and families under democratic procedures.

    Despite the prime minister’s optimism, political analysts are skeptical about the prospects for healing Thailand’s deep divisions.

    The opposition Puea Thai party is backed by former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who the military ousted in a 2006 coup. Since then, Thailand has been rocked by protests and violence in a power struggle between a traditional elite backed by the military and Thaksin’s supporters.

    Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University, says Thaksin’s opponents have shown they are willing to go to great lengths to prevent his supporters from again holding power.

    "The anti-Thaksin side, the establishment, they have tried to do all kinds of things to prevent this outcome, including a military coup, writing a new constitution, dissolving Thaksin's parties, banning the politicians of those parties, brokering the Abhisit government in the barracks," he said. "And, Abhisit government after two years in power still cannot win the hearts and minds."

    Recent opinion polls give the Puea Thai party a slight lead over Abhisit’s ruling Democrats.

    Last year thousands of opposition protesters known as Red Shirts occupied parts of the Thai capital for two months, demanding a new election and an end to what they said was unfair treatment of their leaders.

    Abhisit ordered the military to clear the demonstration, resulting in clashes that left more than 90 people dead, most of them civilians.

    Brad Adams, Asia chief for Human Rights Watch, told the Bangkok Foreign Correspondents Club last week that there has been no credible investigation into the deaths.

    "It is clear that both sides still have very raw feelings about what happened last year.  Both sides are going to use what happened last year as part of their campaign," he said. "And, I do not think there’s any prospect for getting to a point of reconciliation in the next two months during the campaign period. In fact, the campaign period is going to exacerbate this problem, undoubtedly."

    Red Shirt leaders involved in the protests have been charged with terrorism and insulting the monarchy, which carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison. However no soldiers have been charged, despite evidence that rights groups say shows the military killed unarmed protesters.

    Rungrawee Chalermsripinyorat, Southeast Asia analyst for the International Crisis Group, says a key problem in Thailand is political interference in the justice system, which undermines faith in the government.

    "This is something that the judiciary will have to try to address and that comes the issue of justice reform in this country, that how are we going to make people trust the judiciary, the justice system in this country," she said. "That, you know, all people, whoever that violate the law, will be treated equally."

    Red-Shirt protesters say the government continues to crack down on them. In recent weeks the military has shut down Red Shirt-allied community radio stations and detained Red Shirt supporters.

    Thailand has a rich history of military interventions in politics, with 18 coups or attempted coups since 1932. Despite rumors that the military will again intervene to prevent a Red Shirt election victory, army officials deny that they will stage another coup.

    Analyst Thitinan in Bangkok predicts that without some kind of political compromise from both sides there will be no peaceful resolution to the current conflict.  

    "Many people have a vested interest in this establishment, in the established socio-political hierarchy, and it's very difficult to let that go," said Thitinan. "And, also, if we let all of that go, what comes next could be worse. So, somehow, a way in between, a compromise in between, is the best way forward. Both sides have to recognize that and reach out to the other side."

    Among the Thai public, there seems to be little hope that political leaders will agree to such a compromise.

    A survey this year by the non-profit Asia Foundation indicated that more than 80 percent of Thais believe that the country’s political divisions will once again lead to violence.

    You May Like

    Multimedia US Observes Memorial Day With Wreath-laying, National Concert

    Obama lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery

    The Strife of the Party: Will Trump Permanently Alter Republicans?

    While billionaire mogul's no-holds-barred style, high-energy delivery are what rocketed him to nomination, they also have created rift between party elites and his supporters

    China's Education Reforms Spark Protest

    Beijing is putting a quota system in place to increase the number of students from poor regions attending universities

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora